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Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

Here’s a quick look at everything that tickled my fancy this past week with a special emphasis on the developments of some of the world’s largest and most well known companies:

Tinder Social – When I first heard about this new product feature from Tinder I was super excited because I thought they were implementing my idea for a “dating” app for friendship.  Swipe right if you want to hang out with a person who seems cool who has similar interests.  Swipe left if making your own pickles on a Saturday night is not your idea of fun.  However, that’s not what Tinder Social is.  Rather it’s a way for groups of people to meet other groups of people so that they can all go out drinking together on a Saturday night.  Maybe it’ll lead to some romance but more likely it’ll just lead to stupid drunken shenanigans.  Perhaps some people will like this but it’s not what I had in mind.  I wanted something that individual users can use, not just groups.  And I wanted a standalone app, not something that’s intertwined with the regular Tinder experience. Epic fail.

Tesla’s Master Plan, Part II – As a stock holder who really wants Tesla to succeed I had high hopes when I heard that Elon Musk was going to unveil Part II of his Master Plan.  Part I had already been nailed as TechCrunch outlines below:

√ Build sports car

 √ Use that money to build an affordable car

√ Use that money to build an even more affordable car

While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options

So what was Part II all about?!?!  Well, according to Nature World News the plan includes, “expanding Tesla’s electric car technology into vehicles such as trucks and buses, creating renewable energy for homes and of course, making the autopilot technology fool-proof.”

Musk also wants to follow in Uber’s footsteps and make it so that people can share their cars when they’re not being used.  This would make it so that the cars essentially pay for themselves, further bringing down the cost of ownership.

In the words of the great Hannibal Smith from the A Team, “I love it when a plan comes together!”

Netflix Goes Offline – Normally that headline would be a bad thing.  You’d assume it meant that you wouldn’t be able to access you favorite content anymore.  But in this case it’s a good thing for it means that you’ll soon be able to access your favorite content any time, any where.  That’s right.  Netflix is said to be working on a new feature that will allow users to download content enabling them to watch while they’re on the go and not in the proximity of a wi-fi signal.  A boon to anyone who commutes to work on a subway or train.

Light reading explains further:

“Following similar moves by Amazon, Comcast and others, Netflix is now working on a feature that will allow subscribers to download certain programs for offline viewing, according to industry insider and Penthera COO Dan Taitz. And Taitz thinks there will be a landscape shift when the new Netflix feature arrives.

‘We know from our sources within the industry that Netflix is going to launch this product,’ says Taitz. ‘My expectation is that by the end of the year Netflix will be launching download-to-go as an option for their customers.’

Industry gossip from a technology vendor is one thing, but Frost & Sullivan Principal Analyst Dan Rayburn confirms that Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) is developing a downloading solution and says that it’s something of an open secret in the streaming video community.

‘It’s a natural progression for Netflix to want to have some of their content available for consumers to watch offline, and we’ve been hearing for months now that they are in fact going to roll something out soon,’ says Rayburn.”

Which means that the image below is about to become obsolete.  Sorry, Frank.

Google’s Quantum Computing Breakthrough – We’re still several years away from having a working Quantum Computer and that’s if we can ever get there at all.  However, you have to learn to crawl before you can walk and with that in mind Google recently announced a rather important breakthrough that could significantly improve their chances of reaching this ambitious goal.

As Uproxx puts it:

“Google and an international team of scientists have successfully simulated the energy surface of a hydrogen atom. If you’re a chemist, you’ve probably bolted up in surprise, but for the rest of us, it’s difficult to properly simulate chemical reactions on a computer, because the different parts of an atom can be in so many different states, called a “superposition.” It can take days to figure out simple reactions, and more complex ones, like drugs reacting in the human body, are more or less impossible.

The computer you’re using to read this is essentially linear. To deal with that hydrogen atom, it will ploddingly go through every state that atom could possibly be in, one at a time, until it finds the right one. A quantum computer, on the other hand, can simply look at every state the atom is in at once. It can do this because quantum computers can exist in multiple states themselves, making figuring out complex questions like chemical reactions a simple task. Think of it as cramming a multitude of linear computers into one box.

The value of having a computer where you can simulate somebody’s body chemistry and start feeding it drugs is obvious, of course, but we’re not there yet. This little hydrogen atom is just the beginning. However, being able to do this proves two things: One, that our current state of quantum computing, however crude, is viable, and two, that at least some of the theories about the capabilities of quantum computing are true.”

The question now becomes: what else is possible and what can we do to prove it?

Are any of these ideas the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Here’s a quick look at everything else Google related that’s caught my eye over the past week:

1.  Don’t Call It A Comeback

I thought that Google Glass was going to be the best thing ever.  Instead thanks to privacy concerns, poor design, a negative social stigma, and Glassholes it went the way of the Segway and became a punch line.  Google was not prepared to give up on their augmented reality dream though so even though Glass was down it was never really out.  Now it’s poised to make a comeback thanks to some behind the scenes maneuvering.

As Tech Radar reports, “Glass is being overseen by a new strategist at the company, Nest CEO Tony Fadell, ‘to make it ready for users,’ [Eric] Schmidt said.  He told The Wall Street Journal, ‘It is a big and very fundamental platform for Google. We ended the Explorer program and the press conflated this into us cancelling the whole project, which isn’t true.’  He also compared the project to another Google project claiming it’s ‘like saying the self-driving car is a disappointment because it’s not driving me around now. These things take time.'”

2.  The Future Of Search

Google Now, Google’s attempt at predictive search was a cool feature that could cross reference everything it knew about you to provide useful tidbits such as traffic alerts.  But it was limited by the fact that it could only cross reference Google centric sources (Gmail, maps, your calendar, etc.) in order to do so.  However, all that’s about to change.

As Wired reports, “Google has announced more than 70 new integrations for Now. You can find new music to listen to, control your smart home, and even track the whereabouts of your food delivery from the restaurant to your door, all within the confines of Google Now. When you say ‘OK Google’ into your watch or phone to activate Google Now, you’re not just searching for stuff—you’re doing stuff.”

The implications for this are huge.  As more and more services come into the fold Google Now becomes more and more powerful.  Eventually, it could even get to the point where it makes apps obsolete.

3. Trending Up

Have you ever wanted to know what people are searching for in real time?  Well, now you can find out thanks to a new project from Google.

As Wired writes, “Google Trends has long been a tool for journalists tracking what people wanted to know about in the recent past. The function hasn’t changed, but the tense has: Trends now tracks stories in real time, giving unfettered access to what the Internet wants to know in the moment.”

This is a great tool for writers, researchers, and even activists who want to know what’s really happening in a given area instead of just what the media is reporting on.  Just like the way Twitter has been used as a political tool so too may Google Trends.

4.  It’s In The Vault

Since we’re all computing more and more on our mobile devices Google wants to make them more secure.  Enter Project Vault, a security system for your phone disguised as a microsD card.

As CNET explains, “The Vault card is essentially a secure computer that protects the personal information of a phone’s owner. For example, it can encrypt, or scramble, chat messages from an app and provide extra levels of authentication, so your device knows that you are you.”

The best part about this is that not only does it make your phone more secure but it also takes advantage of existing functionality meaning that manufacturers won’t have to change the way that they make phones.

5.   Can You Hear Me Now?

We already have lots of way to share things but Google just came up with one more: bursts of sound.

As Engadget explains, “If Google has its way, the days of sharing web links through copying text (or bumping devices) will soon be over. The internet giant has released Google Tone, an ‘experimental’ Chrome extension that shares your browser’s current web address to other computers through specially crafted sound bursts. So long as the recipients are within microphone range and use Tone, they don’t have to lift a finger — their machines will pick up the audio cue and start surfing. There are a lot of variables that could sour your experience (don’t try this in a noisy room, folks), but this could still be ideal if you just have to send cat videos to everyone within earshot.”

Just be careful though that you don’t accidentally share something private with the entire office!

 

Are any of Google’s lesser known projects the Greatest Idea Ever?

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3-D printing continues to progress at a rapid rate.  Blink and you may miss something. I do my best to try and stay on top of it but it’s becoming an exercise in futility.  Here’s my latest attempt to stay on top of the latest developments:

1.  3-D Bio Printer:  There’s already been quite a few breakthroughs when it comes to 3-D printing organs.  Now there’s word about a new process that can 3-D print skin in order to quickly aid burn victims.

According to the International Business Times, “In severe burn injuries, both the epidermis (outer layer of the skin) and the dermis (inner layer) are severely damaged, and it usually takes at least two weeks for skin cells to be grown in a laboratory to be grafted on to a patient.  As both layers of skin are made from completely different cells that have different structures, it is very difficult for the body to regenerate itself and burn victims can die if their wounds cannot be closed quickly enough.

So how does it work? IBT explains: “Using the patient’s keratinocytes and fibroblast cells, the bioprinter creates a biopolymer in a 3Dstructure that is able to mimic the epidermal and dermal layers of the patient’s skin, printing out in patterns like spots and stripes, which is faster and requires far less cells than printing out a continuous sheet of skin cells.”

This amazing new process is thanks to the PrintAlive Bioprinter and it may be coming to a hospital near you sooner than you think.

The PrintAlive Bioprinter - a 3D printer that can print a

2.  Sand Printing:  Like most people I’m a huge fan of building things with sand namely sand castles.  I’m also a huge fan of 3-D printing.  What do you get when you put them together?  Only pure awesomeness.

That’s because we may soon be on the verge of being able to make things out of sand using the sun!

Tech Crunch sums it up best:

“You know the kid in your old neighborhood that spent his spare time frying ants with a magnifying glass? This is like that — except instead of a magnifying glass, he’s using an big ol’ fresnel lens. And instead of roasting insects, he’s melting freaking sand into stuff.”

Check out this video to see the printer in action:

3.  Printing in Space

If we’ve ever going to colonize space or even just create a permanent base on Mars or the Moon we’re going to need to cut down on our shipping costs.  How do you do that?  By just sending a 3-D printer instead of everything you need! And that’s exactly what happened last week when Space X shipped a 3-D printer to the International Space Station for the very first time!  Despite the fact this is was a mere footnote in your local newspaper I would argue that this is the most significant space related breakthrough since man walked on the moon.

However, there are some logistical concerns with 3-D printing in space as one might imagine.  Specifically as it relates to using the printer safely.  According to Forbes:

“The safety issue is the simple fact that when a 3D printer creates objects from its plastics, it will “off-gas” – emitting toxic gasses into the local air. This isn’t a problem on Earth, where doors, windows and HVAC systems allow those gases to diffuse safely. On the space station, however, the atmosphere is strictly controlled and this becomes a real problem.  To solve that problem, the company has developed an environmental control unit that filters out harmful gasses and nanoparticles produced during the printing process. It’s so efficient, in fact, that the filter all by itself can purify a room on Earth.”

While there are plans to spin off that technology back here on Earth that’s not the best news to come out of this development.  Rather it’s the fact that we’re soon going to be able to make things in space for use in space.  Conquering the final frontier begins now.

As you can see there’s never any shortage of incredible developments when it comes to 3-D printing.  From new materials to new processes to new uses it’s a constant struggle to keep up with it all.  I will do my best though so be sure to keep checking back for all of the latest news.

For the very first time in history a 3-D printer has made its way into space.

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#349 – Book Updates

Well that didn’t take long.  Just days after I released my Year in Review book, “The 50* Greatest Ideas of 2013*”, several of the ideas that I highlighted in my Top Ten section are back in the news again.  

We’ll start with arguably the biggest trend of the year, 3-D printing.  In the book I discussed the fact that everything from a pizza to a metallic gun and a functional pair of Google Glasses could now be printed.  As amazing as all that is though it pales in comparison to the fact that a human face is about to printed.  This amazing procedure, thought to be the first of its kind, was designed to help reconstruct the face of a man who was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. 

According to the British paper the Daily Mail, “The operation will involve breaking and cutting several facial bones once again, but the 3D printing process will also produce guide devices allowing the surgeons to reposition bones with pinpoint accuracy.  Mr Sugar said: ‘We have a good chance of correcting 70 to 80 per cent of the deformity and we will make this man look a lot better.’  The work is considered so groundbreaking and radical it already features in an exhibition at London ’s Science Museum, even before the operation itself has been carried out.” 

This image shows how a biker's face is to be reconstructed after it was damaged in a road accident

One of the other ideas that I spotlighted was I.B.M’s super-computer Watson which you may remember from its cameo on Jeopardy when it defeated record setting champion Ken Jennings in the ultimate battle of man vs. machine.  Since then Watson has been putting its ability to process vast quantities of information and answer questions posed in natural language to far better use: becoming the world’ ultimate second opinion when it comes to healthcare issues.  

In my book I predicted that eventually I.B.M. would look to expand Watson’s capabilities so that other industries could get in on the fun as well.  Apparently, that expansion is set to happen as word came out the other day that they are moving on to Phase Two of their initiative and giving developers a shot at seeing what other novel uses can be dreamt up for it.     

The purpose behind this strategic move according to Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM’s software solutions group is to “to make Watson the operating system of the cognitive era”.  A sentiment echoed by chief technology officer Rob High in an article from the Verge as he says, “We believe that this is such a significant development in the future of computing that we want other people involved in it…We want to let other partners to have a much deeper say in how cognitive computing evolves.” 

Meanwhile, Bitcoins made headlines once again as their value fluctuated wildly over the last few days going all the way from $500 to $900 and back again in just 24 hours.  An article on CNN summed it up best, “As investors, technophiles and lawmakers debated the legitimacy of Bitcoin, one thing’s for sure: the fledgling digital currency is on the roller coaster ride of a lifetime.”  In other words I was spot on when I downgraded Bitcoin’s score due to this very volatility that I feared would scare people away from trusting it.  (See chart below from CNN)

bitcoin prices 111813

Lastly, the surprise entry into my Top Ten, Aereo, also made headlines this week following news of a lawsuit from Major League Baseball and the National Football League.  Those two behemoths are pissed off that their network licensing deals are losing value and they are threatening to take all of their games to cable.  Just like I forecast in my book this issue is about to reaching a breaking point and the end result could be a boon to cord cutters.  

To find out more about these ideas and to see what else wound up making my Top Ten be sure to check out my book, The 50* Greatest Ideas of 2013* available exclusively on Amazon for just $.99! 

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When I set out a few weeks to start updating prior ideas I expected to touch upon ideas from six months ago give or take.  I never expected that I’d need to update a post two days later.  And yet that’s exactly what I’ll be doing today since Hash Mash, my idea to combine content from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram via hash tag themed channels, has since been usurped by my discovery of Sulia, the hottest social network you’ve never heard of according to Mashable

According to their article, “Sulia, evolved from Twitter list firm TLists, (and) offers a subject-based social service that lets you follow topics you are passionate about, from your local football team to television shows to topical political issues.  Ten million unique users have signed up in less than a year, and several big-name investors have contributed some pretty hefty funding. It seems Sulia’s mix of crowdsourcing, machine learning and human supervision is making its 1,000+ channels of content a success.”

An article on Pandodaily offers further insight, “Where Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr all work well to serve our daily content needs, they deliver content in a noisy, unintelligible mishmash.  The idea that we want serious news mixed with a daily dose of cute animal pics is the entire premise of Buzzfeed, by the way.  It is not the premise of Sulia.  On social networks, “You get feeds that cover 500 different subjects,” (Jonathan) Glick says.  “It’s awesome, but it also makes it difficult to dive into any one subject.”

Sulia hopes to change all that by making it easy to follow those topics that you care the most about from political uprisings to reality television.  To find out how it stacks up against the competition I decided to take the site for a test drive.  My first search query was “baseball”.  Upon receiving the search results I was immediately prompted to sign up for an email newsletter that promised to send me a daily update featuring commentary from top baseball “experts” like Buster Olney, Jayson Stark and Ken Rosenthal.  Seems promising I thought to myself and decided to take the plunge.  (I really hope that my inbox doesn’t get spammed now with a bunch of advertisements for penis enlargement pills). 

I then proceeded to dig into the content where I was immediately blown away by a picture of a Korean gymnast throwing out the first pitch before a Giants game.  Hideo Nomo’s windup has got nothing on this girl. 

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As I continued to scroll I discovered interesting commentary from a variety of sources that discussed everything from team analysis at the major league level to injury updates at the minor league level.  There was undoubtedly a lot of coverage regarding Yasiel Puig’s recent handling of the media but there was also a lot of insightful coverage regarding other more obscure topics like top selling player jerseys.  It was truly everything that a devoted baseball fan would want.  Probably even more than they would want to be honest. 

But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I wasn’t all that crazy about this service.  For a social media site it’s light on the social aspect as I didn’t see a way to directly engage my friends or find new ones who shared similar interests.  You also can’t share posts via email or view comments made by other people.  What you can do is “trust” a source which means that you want to receive updates from them.  It’s the Sulia version of following and it’s lame if you ask me.  

To be fair Sulia is still in its infancy and all of this could change over time.  I’m sure that as the site grows in popularity and as more people contribute to it the kinks will work themselves out.  But for now the service is just a collection of my Chrome bookmarks brought to life in one easy to access place.  Useful and cool but not necessarily a game changer.  In other words it’s no Hash Mash.

sulia

The first interest based social network is a cool concept but it has a long way to go before it can be compare to the likes of Twitter.

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The latest in a series of posts in which I follow up on an old idea:

My focus as a sports fan right now should be on the NBA Draft which might be on the verge of going down as the worst draft in the history, not just of the NBA, but of all things that could be drafted.  Instead, it’s on baseball.  Specifically, the on going soap opera “As the Yankees Turn” featuring former star slugger Alex Rodriguez and potty mouthed Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman.  The latest saga is as juicy as it gets in a city famous for its tabloid headlines: a knock down drag out fight to the finish with $114 million on the line as Rodriguez and Cashman take turns inserting their foot into their mouth over Rodriguez’ ability to return from injury.

It all started when Rodriguez randomly joined Twitter and tweeted that he had received clearance from the doctors to start rehab games.  A claim that Cashman quickly denied.  He then wasted no time letting Rodriguez know how he felt: “You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will],” Cashman told ESPN New York. “Alex should just shut the f— up. That’s it.”

Now there are reports suggesting that Rodriguez’ motivation for making those comments and speeding up his return from injury is just so that he can abruptly retire upon returning thereby collecting the remainder of his salary and avoiding an unpaid suspension from Major League Baseball for using performance enhancing drugs.

All this coming on a day the Yankees ran out a starting infield of Alberto Gonzalez, Jayson Nix, David Adams, and Lyle Overbay while getting shutout and announcing that their other veteran slugger, Mark Teixiera, was out for the year with a wrist injury.  For added perspective on the Yankees’ plight consider this: the lowly Houston Astros, whose entire roster combined makes less than Rodriguez does by himself, have outscored the Bronx Bombers this year by three runs.

Which brings me to my point as it is time once again to strongly suggest that Brian Cashman should be fired just like I did last October in post #96 after the Yankees were swept by the Detroit Tigers:

In that post I wrote:

“Cashman is such a skilled politician that he can escape blame for pretty much everything.  The struggles of Alex Rodriguez?  Hank Steinbrenner’s fault for resigning him.  The struggles of Curtis Granderson against the Tigers?  He had poor vision and will be getting tested.  Sabathia’s game four stinker?  Sore elbow.  The team wide inability to hit in the clutch and manufacture runs?  Just a bad time for a slump.  No matter what aspect of the team gets questioned Cashman has an excuse lined up.

And yet despite his expertise at playing the blame game this is a man who is in fact a horrible politician.  This is a man who nearly ran the beloved Derek Jeter out of town when he was a free agent a few years ago telling him to test the market if he didn’t like the Yankees offer.  This is a man who is on record as saying he didn’t want to spend the money to sign relief pitcher, Rafael Soriano, which pissed off Soriano.  The same Rafael Soriano who became the team’s closer this year when Mariano Rivera got hurt, saving the team’s season in the process.  And let’s not forget the fact that this is a man who helped to run Joe Torre out of town because he was upset that Torre was getting all of the credit for the team’s run of success in the late 90′s.”

Flash forward eight months and it’s the same story.  Cashman is still a horrible politician as his tit for tat with Rodriguez bears out.  And worse of all he’s still able to avoid any blame at all for the team’s on field woes since the team has been decimated by injuries to key players like Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira, and Rodriguez’ replacement Kevin Youkilis.

I’m sorry but that’s not acceptable to me.  At some point Cashman has to be held accountable for the Yankees’ woes, even if injuries are to blame, because it’s still his fault that the organization is bereft of major league ready position players capable of stepping in and moreover it’s still his fault that he assembled a flawed, aging roster in the first place.

At this point what’s it going to take to get the Yankees’ ownership group to admit that Cashman isn’t the right man for the job?  Is it going to take Robinson Cano walking as a free agent?  Or will the final straw be when Cashman challenges Rodriguez to a fight on PPV which is seemingly where that saga is heading.

I don’t know.  All I know is that the Yankees are headed in the wrong direction and in the post George Steinbrenner era there’s only one person who can fix this mess.  And his name isn’t Brian Cashman.  It’s Craig Shames.

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They both need to go.

 

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The third in a series of posts in which I follow up on an old idea:

Over the years I have written a lot about online dating.  From a dating site that does away with profiles to a dating service that does away with dates I’ve covered it all.  But no matter how many crazy outside the box ideas that I come up with there is always some crackpot scheme already in existence that puts my ideas to shame. 

One of those ideas is the hookup app, Bang With Friends, which I wrote about last month: Here’s what I had to say:

“On the surface it seems like a good idea but I’m not sure if it’s ever going to catch on.  There’s already enough of a stigma surrounding online dating through reputable sites that I find it hard to believe that people will be willing to freely admit that they had to resort to using an app in order to hook up with someone.  And if there aren’t a lot of people using the service then that kind of defeats the whole point of it.  Assuming that is that you even have friends that are worth hooking up with that you haven’t already tried to hook up with.  Perhaps Bang With Friends of Friends is a better idea.”

Well it turns out that I was onto something because Bang With Friends of Friends does exist.  Sort of.  That’s because the new dating service, Coffee Meets Bagel, leverages your Facebook connections to send you a daily match aka your bagel.  This bagel won’t be someone that you are directly friends with but rather someone who is friends with a friend of yours.  If you like this person and there is mutual interest a temporary phone line will be established for you to text each other and set up a date.  It really is a great system as the site does all the work for you saving you the hassle of having to endlessly scroll through hundreds of profiles of people who look like Sloth from Goonies.  It also reduces the risk of hard feelings festering and if things go well you have a built in support system (your mutual friend) who can put in a good word for you and move things along. 

Sure some bagels are going to be stale and others will be in need of some toppings to make them seem more interesting but that’s okay.  It’s the thought that counts.  And considering that all other online dating sites have failed me up to now this seems like my best bet unless one of my own ideas takes off.  Like this one where I offer people money to set me up on any date that leads to a second date: https://greatestideaever.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/5-findmeadate-com/

In that article I offered $100 for a successful match.  In the spirit of updating my ideas I’m going to up the ante to $500!  That’s right.  $500 to anyone who sets me up on a date that leads to a second date.  Take that Coffee Meets Bagel.

CoffeeMeetsBagel-logo

Does Coffee Meets Bagel finally figure out online dating?

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